01/08/09 — Duplin school board, commissioners will reinstate meetings

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Duplin school board, commissioners will reinstate meetings

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 8, 2009 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The Duplin County Board of Education agreed Tuesday to meet with county commissioners over breakfast.

Tentatively set for either Jan. 15 or Jan. 27 at a location to be decided by the two boards, the meeting is aimed at trying to end a long stand-off over school funding.

The boards used to meet every year over breakfast. In the past couple years since Mike Aldridge became county manager, the boards have met about five times.

"Some were cordial and some contentious," Aldridge said.

Then in May, the school board asked commissioners for $13.2 million in current expense funding. In June, however, the commissioners adopted a budget with school funding $6 million short of that request.

In response, the school board sued for the additional money.

Attempts to mediate the differences out of court failed, and in August the case went to court. A jury of Duplin County residents voted to require the county to provide another $4.8 million to the schools.

Commissioners appealed the decision, and the case remains under appeal.

On Tuesday night, county Commissioner Reginald Wells asked the Board of Education on behalf of his board to resume the breakfast meetings once more. Commissioner Frances Parks, a retired school teacher, also was in attendance but did not speak.

"As the lady chairman (Emily Manning of the Board of Education) said previously, this is a new year. We need to work positively in 2009," Wells said. "It seems we've laid a line in the sand and not crossed it. I'm offering the olive branch. ... We just want to open the lines of communication."

Mrs. Manning said she received a letter asking for the joint meeting from the county manager during the holidays. She asked to have a decision about the joint meeting placed on the agenda.

"We used to have breakfast meetings together. I'd like to start that back again," she said.

The Board of Education chose two possible dates for commissioners to choose between, and Wells said he would poll the board for a decision and contact Mrs. Manning as soon as he receives an answer.